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Haavisto pledges crackdown on harassment at Foreign Ministry

Employees say they fear that their careers may come to a halt if they report harassment or other problems.

Ulkoministeri Pekka Haavisto puhuu Suomen ulkomaanedustustojen päällikköjen vuosittaisessa kokouksessa.
Foreign Minister Haavisto spoke to Finnish ambassadors gathered in Helsinki. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto says he plans to stamp out the harassment reported by staff members including some posted at Finland's embassies and other overseas missions.

"There is no place for any kind of discrimination, harassment or bullying at the Foreign Ministry or any other workplace," Haavisto told an annual meeting of Finnish ambassadors in Helsinki on Monday.

He spoke just after returning from Sudan and before hosting his Iranian counterpart.

Haavisto said he had raised the issue of harassment at an employee meeting in early summer, but that he wanted to reiterate his message publicly.

According to a study published last spring by the previous government, one in six ministry employees reported having experienced harassment. However many reported a reluctance to discuss the matter openly and a fear that managers might block the career advancement of those who speak out.

"Immediate intervention"

Three years ago the Finnish ambassador to Stockholm was issued a warning and recalled due to sexual harassment allegations. Still, some workers say the old culture remains deeply seated in the ministry.

Haavisto says he plans to change the working culture in regard to speaking out, and condemned efforts to conceal and hush matters up.

"I will ensure that reporting such matters is [considered] a service to the Foreign Ministry and its atmosphere," he told the envoys.

The foreign minister stressed that responsibility lies with managers.

"If I hear of any kind of inappropriate behaviour, there will be immediate intervention," Haavisto said.

Sudan transition and Iranian human rights

Haavisto took over as foreign minister from Finns Party founder Timo Soini in early June.

Last month Haavisto was appointed as the EU negotiator in the Sudan crisis, helping to broker a political agreement between the Transition Military Council and the Forces for Freedom and Change.

This past weekend he was in Khartoum to sign the agreement on a transitional period on behalf of the EU, expressing praise "first to the people of Sudan, in particular the women and youth, who stood firm but peacefully to have their voice heard."

Also on Monday, Haavisto hosts a visit by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, who is also meeting with President Sauli Niinistö.

According to the Finnish Foreign Ministry, discussions will include human rights and Finland's EU presidency term, which began in July.

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